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Epidemiological studies

Infection-related cancers ten times more common in HIV-positive people

An epidemiological study of HIV patients in the United States revealed that 40% of cancers are due to infections, compared with 4% in the general population.

In 2008, the study shows that 40% of new cancer cases among HIV-positive patients were due to infection. The majority were due to infection by Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus (pictured), Epstein-Barr virus and human papillomavirus.

Source: CDC

Karposi sarcoma (pictured) accounted for a large proportion of cancers caused by infection in HIV-positive patients

HIV-infected individuals have higher rates of cancers caused by infections than those without the virus, on account of HIV’s suppression of the immune system. 

By linking data between US HIV/AIDS registries and cancer registries, researchers have found that the proportion of cancers among HIV patients attributable to infection is ten times higher than in the general population. 

They estimate that in 2008, 2,500 (40%) of 6,200 new cancer cases among HIV-positive patients were caused by infection. This compares with a rate of just 4% among the general population. The majority of these cancers were attributable to infection with Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus, Epstein-Barr virus and human papillomavirus, the team reports in AIDS (online, 23 October 2015)[1]

The researchers, led by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, France, say that early diagnosis and treatment of HIV infection is therefore critical.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20069661

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  • In 2008, the study shows that 40% of new cancer cases among HIV-positive patients were due to infection. The majority were due to infection by Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus (pictured), Epstein-Barr virus and human papillomavirus.

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